More farmers and crops consultants are expected to take to the skies with UAVs this spring and summer to scout crops. Before anyone can legally fly a UAV for scouting purposes, he or she must pass the Federal Aviation Administration remote pilot licensing test.
Jim Love manages unmanned aerial vehicle technology and works with employees who use UAVs at Beck’s in Atlanta, Ind. He recently answered Indiana Prairie Farmer’s questions about preparing for the testing process and obtaining a remote pilot’s license.
What are the best training options out there to prepare for the exam? What are the costs, and how does a farmer find out what training aids are available? Several online tutorials are available. The one we use most is remotepilot101.com. The best way to find a tutorial is to do a Google search. Beware that the cost can range significantly. You should be able to find a program for less than $250. The Remotepilot101 course currently lists for $149.
Are there books that could help you prepare? Unless you are very good at reading and learning, I would recommend some sort of guided learning session. Some of the concepts are so foreign that it helps both to see and hear the concept.
Where do you go to take the test? What is the cost? There are two approved testing groups. One is LaserGrade, and the other is CATS [Computer Assisted Testing Service]. You would simply log onto FAA’s website and find the center nearest you. Check their schedule to find a time and location that best matches you. The test is the same no matter who administers it. The cost to take the test is $150.
What can you expect in the test? What are tips for passing it? Make sure you study the charts portion. If you wear glasses, make certain your prescription is up to date — much of the reading is very small. The good news is that 85% of the people who take the test receive a passing grade of 70% or better.
Can you take the test again if you don’t pass the first time? Yes. You can take it every 14 days, or until you run out of money!
Once you have a license, is there a renewal process to keep it? Yes. FAA claims certification will last two years. The renewal process doesn’t seem to be spelled out very well at this point. You will need to stay in tune with the industry and with information from FAA as this process becomes more defined.